By Anne Wright-Levi + Michael Levi, Owners of Wright in the Garden
Succulents are growing in popularity. Here is our guide to teach you how to easily grow and care for succulents.
What is a succulent?
All Cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are Cacti. Succulents are Xerophytes, which refers to a plant that stores water in its structure, like its leaves, stems or roots. Because of this system, succulents normally have thick, fleshy stems and leaves which act as storage organs for water. This allows them to survive in drought like conditions (and also means they require less watering).
What is the difference between Cacti and Succulents?
As mentioned before, all Cacti are succulents (retain water), but all succulents are not cacti. Cacti are a plant that retains water and has aeroles (parts of plant that the spines, branches or flowers sprout from). All Cacti have them while succulents don’t.
Different types of Succulents:
Succulents have adapted to such arid conditions in the world, which has resulted in numerous varieties of interesting leaf forms and plant shapes. The most common and well-known succulents are Aloe and Agave.
Caring for Succulents:
Pots & Containers: If you can think of it, it will work! As long as it can drain. If the container doesn’t have drainage, you can add a decent layer of rock, so the roots don’t sit in water.
Soil: Good soil is one of the most important things! Succulents love well-draining, porous soil. A good cacti/succulent mix is best. You can make your own with 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 sand.
Light Requirements: Succulents like bright, indirect light – we recommend 6 hours a day. Most succulents will burn in direct sunlight. Some good growing conditions are a covered patio, a bright room, under grow lights or in the shade of other plants outside. Leaves can tell you about light conditions: With too much light, leaves will burn, turning brown/white. With too little light, leaves will stretch out reaching for light.
Water: Since succulents store water, they don’t need frequent water right? Right and Wrong. They don’t need regular watering like houseplants but with little water, they will barely thrive. Succulents have two watering seasons: Warm – (spring to summer) and Dormant season – (fall to winter).
Warm: This is their growing season. They require more water (think once a week) allowing the plant to dry out in between waterings, along with a good fertilizing once a month (one with low nitrogen and high phosphorus, because they are slow growing).
Dormant season: This is when the succulents are typically not growing, therefore their watering needs are cut way back (think once every 3-4 weeks). During this time, we do not fertilize the plant since it is not growing.
The number one killer of succulents is OVERWATERING. Root rot from overwatering looks like discolored, soft and mushy. The plant can look yellow/white with loss of color.
Tips to make sure you don’t over water:
- Feel the soil with your finger. If it is not dry, don’t water.
- If the top inch of soil isn’t dry, don’t water.
- Use a Moisture Meter.